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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

My Toughest Broadcast

Posted February 8, 2006

I always think of Tom Brothers when Carolina and Duke play basketball. Tom was one of my best childhood friends in Morganton beginning with kindergarten. Tom was a rabid Duke basketball fan but ended up going to Carolina as a Morehead scholar. I was a bleeding red NC State fan as a child but ended up going to Carolina as well. Tom and I played basketball in his driveway for hours and dreamed of playing together in the ACC. We even attended Duke basketball camp in the summer and learned to sharpen our skills. Even though we weren't nearly good enough to play on the college level we both pulled hard for the Heels when we were in Chapel Hill together. I remember how difficult it was for Tom to switch his allegiance to Carolina after pulling for Duke for so many years. It was the same for me but eventually I gave up my obsession with the Wolfpack and became a diehard Carolina fan. After college Tom's new obsession was mountain climbing. Montana. Nevada. New Mexico. Tom loved to travel, hike and climb. His last climb was in Idaho. I was working morning drive news at WKIX in Raleigh when I pulled a story from the Associated Press wire at 4:00AM. Tom Brothers had fallen while rock climbing in the Sawtooth Mountains featured in the photograph above. My childhood basketball buddy, the smartest guy in our class, a tremendous swimmer, and very artistic guy was in critical condition. All of these wonderful qualities about this brilliant young man flashed in front of me. Having to report that news was my toughest moment in broadcasting. I could barely hold back the tears. The next day Tom Brothers died. His ashes were scattered across the mountains of Idaho. The pain of a basketball loss will vanish but the pain of that day will always be a part of me.
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Bill Leslie
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